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Google PageRank - The thing is...

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During the past few years, a great many Search Engine Optimizers have been emphasising the importance of Google PageRank as a leading factor in any website’s overall search engine performance. The main problem with this approach to SEO is that Google PR really actually plays a relatively minor role when any given web page is assessed for overall relevance to its topic.

In our article about Greenbar Madness from way back in September 2006 we already pointed out that if Google PageRank were the only factor in assessing a site’s relevance to any given search term, users would always find the highest PR sites at the top of their search results, with PR gradually dwindling as the user moved further down the list.

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Google PageRank is simply not as Important as many professionals claim

The fact that PageRank is no longer the main ranking factor is amply demonstrated if you visit Google, and search for a keyword or phrase of your choice. In the vast majority of cases, you will find that, although high PageRank web sites are featured in the top ten results, there are usually a fair number of lower PR sites to be found in amongst these.

Why is this?

As Google’s Matt Cutts has pointed out on a number of occasions, including in this entry over at Librarian Central, Google PageRank is only one of over two hundred factors used during the assessment of a web site’s overall relevance to its topic and related search terms. On the whole, Google’s ranking process is an exceedingly complicated one, based on far more than a few green pixels.

The simple fact is that, as far as Google is concerned, relevance to topic is the key, not PageRank.

This is why, although PR does play a minor part in the establishment of a website’s rankings, it is vastly outweighed by that site’s overall structure, content quality, inbound links, code, and, last but not least, by whether or not the site in question violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in any way. And while quite a few operators in the SEO industry have been busily concentrating on convincing prospective clients of the little green PageRank bar’s magical powers, those same operators have been largely ignoring overall quality standards since, in the words of one search engine optimiser not too long ago:

Nobody pays attention to those [Google Webmaster Guidelines] since Google themselves don’t use half the stuff when indexing web sites.

The operative word here should have been ‘Yet’.

Google Webmaster Central

Judging by some of the questions asked more or less daily over at Google's Webmaster Help, Forum many of which focus around high PR sites experiencing pronounced rank-drops, it would appear that the search engine’s continual algorithm upgrades, along with the way PageRank is actually factored into rankings, are continually improving Google’s ability to enhance search result relevance, as well as enforce its quality guidelines, and eliminate violators from its SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

In the face of this continuing search evolution, Google PageRank really is playing a much smaller part in rankings than many web design and promotion professionals would like their clients to believe.


So what should webmasters and site owners do?

The only sensible advice to web designers and online business owners in this matter is to pay less attention to the Google PageRank bar and far greater attention to the information value of the website’s content, as well as the quality guidelines mentioned above. After all, the little green bar is really only a reflection of a site’s perceived link popularity, nothing else.

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